Secret for 60 years, a royal family album

SHE fixed the lens with a regal stare and in a click the camera captured history in the making: a young mother transformed into a monarch.

The first set of official portrait photographs of the Queen after her ascension to the throne have been revealed – 60 years after the photographer was sworn to secrecy.

Kenneth Clayton was a BBC photographer when he was commissioned by a royal portrait artist to take secret pictures of the new Queen and her family in 1952.

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He was one of the first members of the public allowed into Buckingham Palace during the official period of mourning for King George VI, and his photographs captured the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in the months when they were still coming to terms with her new role as monarch.

The images were then used as the basis for the first official portrait of Elizabeth II after she became Queen, painted by Welsh artist Margaret Lindsay William. Mr Clayton even managed to take a picture of himself with a young Prince Charles as he held a very young Princess Anne’s hand.

Under the terms of his contract, he was forbidden to release the images for 30 years – a promise he took so seriously he refused to release them at all during his lifetime.

They were hidden away for decades at the family home, but now Mr Clayton’s family have chosen to release the pictures to coincide with the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

Daniel Clayton, 38, finally persuaded his father to show the photos 12 years after his grandfather’s death in 2000. He said: “He was very proud of the work he did and told us about meeting the Queen every chance he got. My dad was proud too, he still beams when they are brought out – I know I am bound to say it, but they are brilliant photos.”

He added: “We are 99 per cent sure that this was the first time that she sat down and was formally photographed as Queen. Part of the reason for releasing the photos was to get expert help in verifying them, they are having to go back through palace security records from 1952 to check that my granddad signed in on that day.”

Tight security and secrecy surrounded the photoshoot in April 1952. There were also strict rules on the Queen being seen in her royal regalia before the coronation.

Mr Clayton took three rounds of photos, one of Queen Elizabeth for the portrait work, one of her and Prince Philip and a third of Anne and Charles as infants.